What is Beech Leaf Disease

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What is Beech Leaf Disease?
Beech leaf disease (BLD) was first discovered affecting the American beech tree in Lake County, Ohio in 2012. It has since spread rapidly across the northeast now seen in at least 10 states and Ontario, Canada. It affects not just native beech but also European and Asian varieties. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has identified Beech Leaf Disease (BLD) in 35 counties in New York State to date. DEC began tracking BLD in 2018 after it had been first confirmed in Chautauqua County. Fourteen of the counties with BLD were confirmed in 2022, and more are likely to be identified.

What Causes Beech Leaf Disease?
Much information is still unknown about BLD including how it spreads. It is believed to be associated with a newly recognized nematode worm called Litylenchus crenatae mccannii. Unfortunately, what isn’t clear is if the nematode causes all of the damage, or if it is in association with another pathogen such as a virus, bacteria, or fungus.

What are the symptoms of Beech Leaf Disease
Affecting Beech of all ages, symptoms of BLD first appear when leaves form in spring. They include:

  • Dark bands between the veins of leaves;
  • Leaves are cupped, deformed, shriveled and may be smaller than usual;
  • Leaves can be thick and have a leathery texture, unlike the papery texture
    of healthy leaves;
  • Premature leaf drop;
  • Aborted buds leading to sparse leaf cover;
  • Thinning canopy.

BLD is hardest on saplings, killing them in as little as two years with older more mature trees in 6-10 years.

What is the treatment of Beech Leaf Disease?
Currently, there is no proven treatment for controlling Beech Leaf Disease and until a treatment is found, the focus for managing this disease will be prevention.

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